Joe Gallagher and Mike McAllister are tired of waiting.
The San Francisco couple has been engaged since 2008, when same-sex marriage was legal for a few months before voters enacted Proposition 8, the state’s gay marriage ban.
The pair did not think there was a rush to get married then and were a bit surprised when the ban passed, McAllister said.
They dismissed the idea of going to Iowa or Connecticut for their nuptials, but when the New York Legislature began discussing same-sex marriage this summer, they agreed to go for it if the measure passed.
“I think we just got tired of waiting,” McAllister said. “At some point you have to live your life and not wait for the state to give you the stamp of approval.”
The two are among countless same-sex couples in California debating whether to leave the state to get married or wait it out at home, especially now that New York–the most populated and most diverse state to legalize same-sex marriage–has begun granting marriage licenses this week, said Stuart Gaffney, a spokesman for Marriage Equality.
About 30 people attended a meeting Monday night for information about the legality of New York same-sex wedding licenses in California, Gaffney said.
He said most of the couples seriously discussing New York nuptials are like Gallagher, 50, and McAllister, 40, who have lived in New York and have family nearby.
The pair is heading to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade in August to exchange vows, McAllister said.
He said that at first he was willing to wait for the courts to overturn Proposition 8, which a federal judge ruled last year violates the Constitution’s equal protection and due process clauses.
But the decision is currently caught up in the appeals process, and Gallagher was especially eager to wed sooner rather than later, McAllister said. The couple has been together for five years.
Once they realized they could get legally married in New York and have a second ceremony on the West Coast, both were happy with the arrangement, McAllister said.
“I don’t think I was expecting this, but the response by family and friends to the word ‘marriage’ has been kind of amazing,” he said. “People just take it a lot more seriously. The congratulations, well wishes, (and) support have been pretty overwhelming.”
The couple knows their relationship will be on shaky legal ground in their home state, though.
The California Legislature voted to recognize the rights and responsibilities of same-sex couples married outside the state, but since “marriage” is defined by the state Constitution as one man and one woman, those relationships cannot be called “marriages,” Gaffney said.
McAllister said he and Gallagher have therefore been advised to also apply for a domestic partnership in California, and they’re working with a lawyer to draft wills and establish durable power of attorney that will be recognized separately from their actual marriage.
Gaffney said the situation just illustrates the complications of inequality.
“A California couple is faced with a very confusing array of options,” he said. “It’s a really unfair landscape for same-sex couples who want to say ‘I do.'”
McAllister said he and Gallagher hold out hope that Proposition 8 will be overturned and their New York marriage validated at home.
There is no doubt to them that marriage is an upgrade from domestic partnership, McAllister said.
“Marriage implies to me that I’m making this commitment to this guy,” he said. “That he’s the one I choose to spend the rest of my life with. It’s not a decision to make lightly.”
Janna Brancolini, Bay City News